Do improvements in emotional distress correlate with becoming more mindful? A study of older adults

Kate Splevins, Alistair Smith, Jane Simpson
Aging & Mental Health 2009, 13 (3): 328-35

OBJECTIVES: The study aimed (1) to investigate changes in older adults' emotional wellbeing (specifically depression, anxiety and stress levels) and mindful ability following a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) course; (2) to explore correlations between mindfulness (measured as an overall ability and as individual components; observe, describe, act with awareness and accept without judgement) and changes in depression, anxiety and stress levels.

METHOD: Twenty-two participants took an eight-week MBCT course. Levels of depression, anxiety and stress were recorded pre- and post-intervention, as was mindfulness ability (measured both as an overall ability and as individual components).

RESULTS: Significant improvements in emotional wellbeing and mindfulness were reported post-MBCT, with large to moderate effect sizes. Increased mindfulness was moderately and significantly associated with improved emotional wellbeing. Increases on all four components of mindfulness were positively associated with greater emotional wellbeing, however only act with awareness and accept without judgement were significantly correlated (with reduced depression). Older adults in our sample reported higher scores on observe and act with awareness than other populations.

CONCLUSION: This study adds to a growing evidence-base indicating the efficacy of MBCT for depression, anxiety and stress, and extends these finding to older adults. This study found older adults to have elevated levels of certain facets of mindfulness and recommendations are made for researching the possibility that mindfulness may be an extension of the developmental process.

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